US Elections: Trump, Biden clash from afar at town halls
American voters on Thursday (local time) heard incumbent President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden tell what they would do after coming to power and how they are the better version of their competitor. The two were supposed to participate in the second Presidential debate but instead, attended town halls, simultaneously, on two different television networks, in two battleground states. Here's what went down.
Trump, recently diagnosed with coronavirus, was speaking on NBC News at Miami's Pérez Art Museum and defended his handling of the pandemic. The disease has killed 222,717 in the US, but Trump indicated that the battle is almost over. "We have done an amazing job. And it's rounding the corner," the Republican, eyeing another term in the White House, told moderator, Savannah Guthrie.
Trump, observers said, appeared erratic when faced with tough questions. Asked specifically by Guthrie to condemn white supremacy, Trump replied, "I denounce white supremacy, OK?" She also asked him about his medical conditions and he stuck to giving generic replies. Questioned whether he took the coronavirus test before the first debate, Trump answered evasively, "Possibly I did. Possibly I didn't."
Notably, Trump's response to a question on QAnon — a conspiracy theory, which the FBI believes could be a terror threat — was widely discussed. QAnon's believers claim a few Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, and billionaires, call the shots globally while being involved in human trafficking, pedophilia, etc. When asked to denounce the theory, Trump said, "I don't know about QAnon."
When Guthrie suggested Trump knew about QAnon, he replied, "What I do hear about it, they are very strongly against pedophilia." Later, the moderator asked him why he retweeted a QAnon Twitter account, which claimed Biden got a Navy Seal team killed. Trump said, "That was a retweet! People can decide for themselves." A stunned Gutherie commented, "I don't get that. You're the president, not someone's crazy uncle."
When confronted with an NYT report, that claimed Trump paid negligible taxes for years, the President slammed the investigative piece. He declared he didn't owe any money to Russians. Asked if he owes $400 million, Trump said, "I'm saying is that it's a tiny percentage of my net worth." He called the aforementioned amount "peanuts," citing the vast, scenic properties that he has.
Biden, on the other hand, sat nearly 1,200 miles away from Trump, appearing for an ABC News town hall at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. He was particularly unhappy with Trump's coronavirus response. "He missed enormous opportunities and kept saying things that weren't true," Biden said, also mentioning Trump's interview with journalist Bob Woodward, where he admitted the virus was more lethal.
At the town hall, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, the Democratic challenger was asked about the 1994 crime bill — the biggest crime bill in US history that he authored. The Act expanded the federal death penalty, banned a new set of people from possessing firearms, and defined crimes more extensively. The most immediate effect was that the bill led to mass incarceration.
When asked if he thought supporting the bill was a mistake, Biden answered in the affirmative. "But here's where the mistake came: The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally," he said.
In Pennsylvania, where Biden's town hall happened, fracking, remains a sensitive issue as jobs are dependent on it. Biden is also facing calls from environmentalists to ban the process of drilling into the earth. Treading carefully, Biden said he won't ban fracking but added, "We don't need to subsidize oil any longer." Biden declared he didn't support the Green New Deal.
Evidently, the dueling town halls were not supposed to happen on the date set for the second Presidential debate, but the anticipated event was canceled after Trump refused to participate virtually. Biden's campaign was fine with the virtual event but junked Trump's proposal to postpone the debate. The third Presidential debate is scheduled for October 23 at the Curb Event Center, Nashville in Tennessee.